Going green is a bit of a sensation of our generation, and with good reason. Our American consumerist and materialist culture has put the Earth through the works without giving anything back for years and years. Now climate change is spurring us all to start thinking more about what we consume and what we need to do to give back to the earth after all the damage we have done to it. As individuals, we can take our own steps towards having a “green” lifestyle that not only benefits us but also the environment.
I want this article to be guilt-free though. Having an eco-friendly lifestyle does mean some sacrifice of what we have grown up with. “Going green” must be a personal choice; it’s not something that I can just convince you of. If you do want to make a change though, I will be offering up ways that you can start changing your consuming habits to benefit the environment. Just remember that “going green” is a process that can come with some guilt if you make a mistake, like buying candy with unsustainably farmed palm oil in it (I did that last week and it still bothers me.)
I will start with some of the easier ways to cut down your personal carbon footprint:
Stop Using Plastic Bags
Get a reusable bag! Right now, with Covid-19 some stores don’t want you to bring your reusable bags inside, but you can just tell the cashier or bagger that you don’t want any bags. If they give you a sceptical look, just tell them to put all your items back into your cart after ringing them up. Keep your reusable bags in your car so that when you get outside you can bag your items at your car! I have found that this can actually speed up the checking out process and you reduce the plastic in your life at the same time!
Recycle Diligently; Not Carelessly
Look into what your recycling will take and what it won’t. Certain areas or companies can only take certain plastics indicated by the number in the recycle sign on the container. For example, most styrofoams are six. I grew up in an area that didn’t recycle number six, so that meant that I had to start avoiding styrofoam which is a pain when you want takeout. Make sure your recycled items are clean and clear of all food or product. Most recycling companies are not responsible for cleaning those and any foreign matter can ruin a batch of recycled material.
Try to Avoid “One-Use” Items
These are things like plastic straws, plates, silverware, takeout containers, etc. Like the name denotes, one-use items are items that you use once then throw away. Most one-use things can’t be recycled. A lot of these things are involved in the carryout food business, which is understandably difficult for this time where carryout is important for small businesses and for our meals. In this case, I emphasize the word “avoid”. It’s incredibly hard in our consumer culture to be “one-use” free, so don’t feel bad when you need to get takeout.
Here are some bigger changes that you may make to live a more sustainable life:
Be Less of a Consumer
Stop buying things that you don’t “need.” These are frivolous things that you know will probably end up in the trash or donated to Goodwill within the next year or so. Some examples are fast fashion (the cheap clothes you see in almost every mainstream store that you don’t know who made them, how they were made, and where they came from), small meaningless items that might be for “fun”, and the things that at the end of the day don’t matter. A lot of this kind of stuff is “impulse buys” so they should be easy to identify.
Speaking of fast fashion…
Consider Thrifting as an Alternative to Buying New
Fast fashion is a big subject and also a big problem in our culture. This reminds me to note that a lot of cheap things are not very sustainable, which is incredibly telling of our culture but also distressing for the people who can’t afford anything but the cheap things. This is where I think that sometimes it’s a helpless situation where you want to live a more eco-friendly life but can’t afford to. A solution to this could be thrifting, and I highly recommend it for those who maybe want a new clothing item or furniture or even for decorations for holidays. You can find some good stuff for a low price at thrift stores. And you reduce what you consume off the rack because you are using something someone else didn’t want after they bought it.
There are so many things that you as an individual can do to start living more sustainably, like switching from plastic bottles (especially self-care items like shampoo and lotion) to a plastic-less form of that. Some items come in glass bottles, some come bottle-less, like shampoo bars. There are even toothpaste tabs instead of the plastic tube. There are alternatives to much of what we have in plastic, you just might need to do some searching for them.
If you are willing to start learning and living an eco-friendly lifestyle, I want to remind you that there will be mistakes and slip-ups along the way, but you just have to keep trying and don’t get too down on yourself for those mistakes. Just know that you are doing your best to be a positive eco-friendly force in our world. A big factor in my green journey was the people around me that started making the changes and sacrifices to go green. So, just think, maybe your efforts will inspire others around you to start making changes in their life.